UUCSR Writer's Forum Presentation

“How digital platforms are affecting the writer and the publishing process”

I discussed the variety of ways that your writing can be released to the reading public, including the explosion of self publishing options, how the differing cultures of internet niches effects writing styles and skills as well as crowdsourcing your efforts. Georgette G. deBlois asked me to speak at the UUCSR Writer’s Forum “From Chaucer to Tweets” 10/8/11 and I was honored. Below are my notes for the audience that wanted more information or those that may have missed it.

Ways You Can Release Your Writing to the Public:

Your own site

Own your own name, your pen name, any brand name you see fit and they can all point back to your website. Prices range from $3 a year to $11 a year for one domain. Add in ICANN fees and taxes and it’ll cost you about $75 for one domain for 5 years. Why 5 years? Google likes websites that the domains are owned for 3-5+ years because it shows you are in the for the long haul. You will be rewarded with a higher PageRank and better SEO.

You will have many options for the kind of site you can have. The most important things to consider are that you can easily publish and have the ability to sell your work. Ecommerce will allow you to make money off your own writing whether you are signed or not. Your website is your home, you control it, and that’s where you want to drive your traffic.

e-Books

It’s confusing how many types there are so here’s a breakdown of e-book types and formats for your consideration. There is no industry standard which is why there are so many formats. You can have your e-book available in multiple formats but it is wise to pay attention to quality control because your work will shift from version to version. When migrating to digital, here are six key questions to ask.

Many writers believe that e-books are for those that can’t get signed, that they aren’t real publishing, or that they simply aren’t for them. If this is your thinking, take a look at this information from the Association of American Publishers from June 2011. In the last 12 months, adult paperback sales have dropped 63.8% at a loss of $85m, hardcover sales down 25.4% while ebooks, via Kindle, iPad and Nook +167% for the month,  gaining $50m. Is that enough to convince you that e-books are a valid form of publishing?

Many believe that if you use e-books or self publish, you won’t get signed. If you are able to prove you are a sure thing with dependable sales, the odds of you being signed actually go up as traditional publishers don’t have the budget to bet on unproven talent. You can leverage this information to get a better contract rate as well.

I mentioned in my presentation that in my field of technology, e-books and pdfs are really the best way for me to get up-to-date information. When I get a bound tech book (some call it a dead tree edition), the first thing I look at is the copyright date. If it’s before 2010, it’s ancient and the information is most likely no longer useful. This isn’t a judgement, it’s a fact that the second a book is printed on technology, it’s out of date. That’s how quickly my industry changes (like you weren’t aware). Every industry is different but I wanted you to be know how important this type of publication is in my work and possibly others.

Distribution of e-books is wide and varied from iTunes with the iBook application, simple pdfs that can be sent via email or posted to websites and forums, Amazon has the Kindle store, Scribd, and many more options.

Print on Demand

The one thing everyone can agree on here is that there is little everyone can agree on. Making sure your work is “future proofed” is important because of the constant developments in technology. Again, quality control is very important as your work moves from digital to print.

Options for services: Lulu, Completely Novel, Blurb, Wordclay, Createspace. Createspace is a great option because it is owned by Amazon. You upload your digital version to the Kindle Store and can print it at Createspace, fairly seamless.

Options for self publishing:
  1. Start your own publishing house. Pros, lots of freedom. Cons, takes lots of your time and quite a bit of up front investment.
  2. Self publish using online tools. Pros, takes little upfront cash and there’s quite a bit of flexibility. Cons, you will have to learn some new skills (I don’t think this is bad).
  3. Use a self publishing house. Pros, requires little time on the part of the writer. Cons, you’ll end up paying for a lot you don’t need.
  4. BEWARE of the vanity publisher! Those that will tell you your work is wonderful yet charge you and arm and a leg to print, market, and promote your work. You end up paying  a lot for a very little return.

Social Media

The democratization of information is the best thing that has ever happened to non-profits, small businesses, oppressed societies and people. You can set up shop on any social network or online tool to share and promote your work. Look to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Tumblr, WordPress, StumbleUpon, and so many more. Social media is #1 about conversation #2 about sharing.

This is the most frequent question I get, “How do I get people to read or see my work?” My answer is, if you get a brand new phone number how will you get me to call you?…….. Give me your number. I can’t intuit that information. You HAVE to tell me.

There is another type of  tool at your disposal, content curation. You can share your work with the world and then curate what you’ve written. Storify is great for that. They’ve also recently added SoundCloud to their services so that now you can curate your writing and add audio, like the Director’s Cut of a movie.

The one thing you have to remember about social media is that each platform or tool is it’s own universe. These are different rooms with differing cultures. They have their own language, rules, and styles of communication. When you decide you want to try one, make sure you research what it’s all about, set up an account and observe the behavior of the natives. It’s so easy to barge in and make a fool of yourself. Go slowly. If you need help, ask me. I know a thing or two about social media.

Crowdsourcing

The last item to consider is crowdsourcing, formerly known as collaboration. You can use Crowdspring to get freelance writing projects. There is also a few sites like WeBook, Authonomy, and Inkpop that you can post your work in hopes that you will get valuable critiques and be spotted by an agent or traditional publisher.

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